My wife and I like to joke that this movie is our “baby.” And like all fathers, I could only claim a supporting role in carrying this child to term – but I did plant the seed. When I challenged Lotti to write this screenplay, I knew she had a great story inside of her that was yearning to be let loose on the world. Her love of horror films, her politics and her sense of humor were the perfect ingredients for making something interesting and unique: a funny, kick-ass, female-centric story of sex, blood and Simone de Beauvoir. It turned out better than either of us even imagined, and with my work done I was ready to ramble on the next thing and let her carry this baby to term on her own. But then she asked me a question I never expected to hear, even though it was the most obvious question to ask:
“Do you want to direct this?”
Looking back now, it seems ridiculous to think we wouldn’t work on this project together. We already knew we were a great Producer/Director team, and we had discovered the subtle art that all married business partners must learn – namely, how to work together without wanting to strangle each other at the end of the day. But my main reservation had to do with the very personal nature of this project: this was definitely her story to tell, so what could I bring to the table?
I think the really fun part of shooting someone else’s material is that you get to bring your own interpretation to the mix, to stretch and expand the story in ways the author never envisioned. There are so many creative decisions that aren’t on the page that must be carefully weighed and considered. What’s the tone of this thing? Is it really dark? Is it goofy? Is it bright, or gritty? Somewhere in-between? What does it sound like? It was my job to answer these questions and put forth my vision of this story. And make no mistake: a Director’s job is merely to answer questions. They’re important questions of course, and the entire success or failure of the film rests upon each and every one of the answers – but that’s what it all boils down to. “What palette should Leah’s wardrobe be? Which dagger would an ancient blood countess use? Can we afford these lights? What color is the moonlight? Is this mustache ridiculous? And will you please eat a sandwich before you fall over?
Now that it’s all finished, it’s up to you to judge the quality of my answers. Did I do right by this awesome story? I do hope so. And truly, I have to give the most credit to those who worked on this thing the hardest: a small army of incredible actors, department heads, artists, technicians, stylists, camera ninjas, musicians and friends who put their blood sweat and tears into our film.
I can’t thank them all enough – though my bar tab says otherwise.
So the final question is, did I put my stamp on this film? Well, everyone always tells us that this “kid” of ours looks just like her. Yeah, but the eyes? Those eyes are mine.
*For those of playing along at home, the correct answers in order are: muted Earth tones, the fancy one that’s also the cheapest, no but rent them anyway, bluish-silver, yes but use it because it’s awesome, and no, I’ll eat something next week when this scene is wrapped, thank you very much.
— John V. Knowles, Director of CHASTITY BITES